Turkey 101

Bringing together family and friends in the name of food: ahh my favorite. Really though, what is better than having a meal with people that you love? Thanksgiving is traditional, extravagant, and always overindulgent. It is the culmination of the fall season; I yearn for this holiday.

The best part of Thanksgiving: no two families’ tables are filled with the same fare. The mashed potatoes served at your home every year on the fourth Thursday of November are not equivalent (or as good, in my opinion) to my Dad’s famous potatoes. That’s the beauty of it… everyone has their own ideals and memories of Thanksgiving which makes the holiday so special.

One thing that most of us can agree on: While side dishes and desserts vary, Thanksgiving is Turkey. If you are in charge of your turkey this year, [ as I was for Friendsgiving this past weekend] here is what you need to know.

Buying: 1-1.5 pounds per person recommend. Frozen turkeys give you the ability to buy at the best price; look for ones with the pop-up timer, but still use a conventional meat thermometer as they are more trustworthy.

Thawing: Leave it in the refrigerator for several days or place [wrapped] in the sink covered with cold water. It must stay cold: this takes attention. Do not let it sit out at room temperature. I thawed mine during the evenings in the sink and would put back in the refrigerator at night/ while at work. This took three days.

 Prepping: 

  • First you have to remove all the wrapping and the inside stuff. I had my roommate help me with this part. [I was screaming like a little girl.] Be sure to clean out everything in the belly area and check the neck area too- rinse it out well with water. It’s gross, I won’t sugar coat that one bit. It’s worth it though.
  • Turkey bags make things easy. I use these. Put some flour in the bag and shake it around to coat the bag.
  • Put the turkey in the bag, put the bagged turkey in the pan or roaster you will be using. Its easier at this point to stuff your turkey while its already in the bag. Stuff it.
  • Rub a little butter, salt, pepper, garlic, etc on the skin of your turkey. Whatever you like.
  • Pull the bag up and then pour in a container of stock around the bird. Gather the bag at the top and secure with the included tie. Make small slits in the top of the bag. There are easy instructions that come within the box!
  • Feel free to do all of this early and stick it back in the refrigerator until about a half hour before you are ready to pop it in the oven.

Cooking: 

  • Preheat oven to 350 and then get your turkey in there! Cooking time depends on pre cooked weight/ whether it is stuffed. I followed the instruction card within the cooking bag box. A whole stuffed turkey, 12-16 pounds requires 2.5 – 3 hours in the oven and a required temperature of 180 degrees. [ Stick your meat thermometer near the inner thigh area – not against the bone.]

Serving: Let it sit for 20 minutes or so before opening up the bag. Lift it out onto your carving station, remove stuffing, and get at it. Place the sliced meat back in the broth to keep it juicy and delicious. I let my roommate do the carving. He did just wonderfully.

Enjoy your turkey with your chosen sides. My favorite: sweet potato casserole. What’s yours?
Mangia!

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